Ruling granting Tony Blair immunity from prosecution over Iraq war to be reviewed

Last year’s ruling to block a private criminal prosecution against the former PM revisited by Lord Chief Justice 

Wednesday 05 July 2017 12:10
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The private criminal prosecution bought against the former prime minister last year was based on the findings of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War
The private criminal prosecution bought against the former prime minister last year was based on the findings of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is set to review a ruling last year that gave Tony Blair immunity for prosecution over his role in the Iraq War, it has emerged.

Last year Westminster magistrates court blocked a private criminal prosecution against the former prime minister over the international crime of “aggression” could not be pursued, granting Mr Blair immunity from criminal charges.

That ruling is to be reviewed at the Royal Courts of Justice on Wednesday by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, one of the most senior judges in the country, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Families on Chilcot Inquiry

The private prosecution, which was brought by General Abdul-Wahid Shannan ar-Ribat, a former chief of staff of the Iraqi army, sought an international war crimes trial in a British court for Mr Blair, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. The general, now living in exile, is represented by self-described "radical lawyer" Michael Manfield QC and Imran Khan, who represented the family of Stephen Lawrence during the public inquiry into the teenager's murder.

The case is based on the findings of last year’s Chilcot report into the British government’s actions in the run up to the Iraq War. It accuses them of “aggression” in deciding to join the US in its 2003 invasion of Iraq over the false allegations ruler Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The high court decided in May that the prosecution’s attempt was entitled to a hearing seeking permission for a court order to progress with the case, the Guardian said.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright - who moved to block the prosecution in 2016 because it could “involve details being disclosed under the Official Secrets Act” - will have a barrister in court to try and ensure the ruling is upheld.

His team is expected to argue that the crime of aggression, which exists in international law but not in the UK’s books, cannot be brought in a British court - although former Attorney General Goldsmith himself wrote in 2003 that it could “automatically form [a] part of domestic law.”

Following the publication of the long-delayed Chilcot report last July, families of killed service men and women raised £150,000 to prepare other legal cases against Mr Blair and others who may have “acted unlawfully” in deciding to go to war.

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